Diagnosis of Peptic Ulcers
Peptic ulcers can be diagnosed using both x-ray and endoscopic examinations. Specialized blood, breath, and stool tests are used to identify the presence of H. pylori . Rectal examination and stool guaiac test can reveal whether you have a bleeding ulcer.
Endoscopy —This is an examination of the lining of your gastrointestinal tract. After sedation or numbing of the throat, a small tube with a light and camera on the end will be passed into your mouth, down your throat, and into your esophagus, stomach, and duodenum. Other instruments can be passed down through the endoscope to inspect the area, take biopsy samples, and treat any bleeding that is present.
Blood Tests —If you’re suspected of having a peptic ulcer, you’ll probably have a complete blood count to check for anemia. Anemia is common for an untreated bleeding ulcer. Rapid tests performed right in your healthcare provider’s office may also be used to identify the presence of H. pylori . Blood may also be sent to a laboratory to run more sophisticated tests that can confirm the presence of H. pylori.
Stool Tests for H. Pylori —A tiny sample of stool may be obtained through a rectal examination done in your healthcare provider’s office. The stool sample is tested for the presence of H. pylori. This is a rapid, on-the-spot test, and can also be used to check for response to antibiotic treatment against H. pylori .
Breath Tests for H. Pylori —You’ll be given a special drink, a capsule, or a pudding containing urea with carbon along with a special radioactive label. After this, you’ll be asked to blow up a balloon or breathe into a bottle of water so that your breath can be collected. If your breath sample contains the radioactively labeled carbon dioxide, this indicates that you have an H. Pylori infection.
Stool Guaiac —A small sample of stool may be obtained through a rectal examination, or after a bowel movement. It’s smeared onto a little card, and several drops of a chemical are dropped onto the stool sample. This can reveal whether blood is present in your stool, which can be a sign of a bleeding ulcer.
American College of Gastroenterology website. Available at: http://www.acg.gi.org/ . Accessed March 3, 2006.
Cecil RL, Goldman L, Bennett JC. Cecil Textbook of Medicine . 21st ed. Philadelphia, PA: WB Saunders Company; 2000.
Meurer LN, Bower DJ. Management of helicobacter pylori infection. Am Fam Physician [online]. Apr 2002;65(7). Available at: http://www.aafp.org/afp/20020401/1327.html.
National Digestive Diseases Information Clearinghouse website. Available at:. http://digestive.niddk.nih.gov/ . Accessed March 3, 2006.
Last reviewed June 2008 by
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